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Egypt Convicts 26 for Ties to Banned Islamic Party

An Egyptian court has convicted 26 people, including three British nationals, of trying to revive a banned Islamic group and sentenced them to up to five years in jail.

Almost two years after their arrest, 26 defendants were convicted in Egypt of being members of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami), which claims it wants to promote the establishment of an Islamic society in Egypt.

Twelve defendants, including three Britons, were sentenced to five years in prison. Thirteen others were given prison terms of one to three years. One of the defendants was tried in absentia.

The defendants were arrested under an emergency law adopted in Egypt following the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. That law, among other things, prohibits the formation of religious political parties not approved by the state.

The chairman of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights of Prisoners, is Mohammed Zarea.

Mr. Zarea says the Islamic Liberation Party in Cairo is an illegal organization because the government has said so. He says even the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest organized religious group, is a banned entity in Egypt. There are no exceptions, he says.

The Islamic Liberation Party was first formed in the 1950s in Jordan, but was outlawed in 1974.

Those sentenced Thursday will not be able to appeal their convictions. Only President Hosni Mubarak has the authority to order their release.